One cannot be “Gay” or “LGBTQ” and a Christian. “Gay” and “LGBTQ” are terms normally denoting one who is active in a homosexual lifestyle or identifies with a homosexual lifestyle. There are no two ways about this. There is no such thing as a person who is a true Christian and who is active in or desiring to be active in a homosexual lifestyle.
Practically all of evangelical Christianity, it seems, knows something about the Revoice Conference that will be taking place at Memorial Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America), in St. Louis. To be honest, the event has brought negative views upon our denomination. Who hasn’t received an email from someone asking “Is this Really true?” Numerous outlets have also written articles questioning the conference’s propriety. Within our denomination there is plenty of disagreement and debate.
One of the cardinal rules of good debate practice is that stipulations should first be made and areas of agreement recognized so that people aren’t unnecessarily arguing over the wrong things. It is my hope that this article will help to define things in such a way that parties will know the facts, rather than rumors, and thus deal honestly, charitably and knowledgably with one another. It will also voice some concerns about the Revoice Conference and propose a solution.
Both Parties Agree:
- To an orthodox understanding of sex and sexuality.
The leaders of the Revoice Conference have made it clear that they hold to a biblical understanding of sex and sexuality. On their website, the leaders state the following, “We believe that the Bible restricts sexual activity to the context of a marriage covenant, which is defined as the emotional, spiritual, and physical union of a man and a woman that is ordered toward procreation.” They have sought to make this orthodox belief known in more than one format. Certainly, we as PCA teaching and ruling elders can whole heartily agree with this statement. We also need to take the Revoice Conference’s leadership at their word on this matter unless or until they demonstrate by words and/or actions that they aren’t true.* Therefore, we can realize that no party is currently advocating for changing the view on the sinfulness of homosexuality in the PCA.
- In abstinence from sexual sin including homosexuality.
Revoice calls for people who have aberrant sexual urges to practice celibacy instead of acting on sinful urges. All true Christians would agree that there is a place for people simply to refuse to act on temptations. Therefore, we can recognize that both parties agree that it is appropriate to call on people to be celibate rather than act out in a way that is sexually sinful.
- That sin is sin and homosexuals can be redeemed by Christ just as any other sinner.
Revoice wants to reach out to those who have same-sex attractions or who may identify as LBGTQ et. al. Their argument is that sin is sin, and Christ came to redeem men and women who suffer from all types of sins, including those who are involved in homosexuality. Indeed, Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 tells us that former homosexuals are among the list of sinful people who have been redeemed from their sinfulness. I would think that any true Christian would recognize these facts, agree with them and would be highly desirous to see former homosexuals repent and come under faith and obedience to Christ. Therefore, we can recognize that both parties agree that homosexuals can be redeemed and both parties earnestly desire to see such happen.
- It is not problematic that Revoice’s leaders wish to reach out to those with SSA.
The Revoice Conference’s leaders want to reach out to those who struggle with same-sex attractions and offer to them redemption through Christ as well as call them to practice obedience to God. It would seem that all PCA TEs and REs would see reaching out with the gospel to this group to be a good thing. Until Revoice demonstrates that this is not their intentions or fails in practice, we must take them at their word. Therefore, we can recognize that an orthodox, evangelical desire to minister the gospel to those with same-sex attraction is good.
The Parties Disagree:
On the language and terms.
This is where, truth be told, the rubber hits the road. Those who are concerned with Revoice are concerned over the usage of such terms as “Gay-Christians” and “LBGTQ-Christians” and “Sexual Minorities”. These concerns are not small or limited to our denomination, nor are they trivial. Therefore, we can recognize that the debate is about the propriety of some of the Revoice Conference’s chosen language and terms.
The terms “Gay” and “LBGTQ” and “Sexual Minorities” are problematic because:
- Using these terms gives the impression that Revoice (and the PCA) accept and approve of words that describe a sinful lifestyle.
The terms “Gay” “LBGTQ” are secular terms denoting that one is active in a homosexual lifestyle or identifies with the homosexual lifestyle. Furthermore, in the secular world, terms such as “Gay” “LBGTQ” and “Sexual Minorities” are used in conjunction with acceptance and even celebration of homosexuality.
The Revoice Conference, when using terms and language like “Gay-Christian” “LBGTQ-Christian” and “Sexual Minorities” implies their tacit approval of the terms and language, which in turn gives a sense to our church members and others in the evangelical community that they (Revoice), and we (the PCA), approve of these terms as well as all that these terms mean and represent.
- The effect of using these terms will be devastating to the minds and hearts of our congregants regarding this biblical matter.
When our church members hear us using terms like “LGBTQ” and “Gay,” they could naturally conflate our church’s position with that of the world, which presents these terms as badges of acceptability. Anywhere else, these terms are used in conjunction with acceptance, even celebration, of the behavior. People WILL begin to inadvertently believe that our position has changed on this matter. This confusion will lead to increasing ignorance in our churches regarding our biblical stance and soon the stance of our people will be more in line with the world’s norms. That is simply how things go.
- One cannot be “Gay” or “LGBTQ” and a Christian.
“Gay” and “LGBTQ” are terms normally denoting one who is active in a homosexual lifestyle or identifies with a homosexual lifestyle. There are no two ways about this. There is no such thing as a person who is a true Christian and who is active in or desiring to be active in a homosexual lifestyle. Thus a “Gay” or “LGBTQ” Christians is a contradiction in terms. This language sends the message to people that the PCA has changed its position and it will over the course of time bring about an actual change in position. In the meantime it sends an absolutely wrong message to those who are in homosexuality that they can be “Gay” and Christian. What Revoice hears as just another term for same-sex attraction is not what the homosexual hears, nor is it what our people will hear.
- The term “Sexual Minority” is grossly out of order.
Homosexuals are no more a “Sexual Minority” than those who are incestuous or who practice bestiality (both also listed in Leviticus) are “Sexual Minorities”. We would never dignify the incestuous or those practicing bestiality with the term “Sexual Minorities” and it is shameful to do so in the case of homosexuals.
- Those who struggle with sin cannot be encourage to identify themselves by their sin.
As Christians we are called to identify ourselves in Christ. A person can be a Christian who struggles with a particular temptation, but they should never be identified by their sin, especially sexual sin. Many heterosexual males are Christians who deal with temptations to lust after women who are not our wives. However, they are not “Swinger-Christians.” Using terms like “Gay-Christians” simply encourages people to view themselves by their sexuality. It furthermore discourages them from separating themselves from that community and its lifestyle. It also is a humiliating statement of their hopeless destiny to be “Gay.”
Some, such as Greg Johnson, have suggested that while the church must reject homosexual behaviors, we can still appreciate and look for valuable things in “Queer” art and culture. Why? Shall we look for the Imago Dei in pornographic movies too? Furthermore, why this fixation upon sex and sexuality for a conference that is designed to, ostensibly, de-escalate and disempower sex and sexuality?
- It brings shame and reproach upon our denomination.
Our denomination already must contend with the liberalism and heresy of the PCUSA being inadvertently attached to us by way of our denominations sharing the name Presbyterian. It would seem that we would want to avoid any hint of immorality here.
The leadership of Revoice should recognize these serious dangers and listen to the pleadings of their brothers in the Lord who are pointing out some very serious issues. The conference should drop such terms as “Gay” or “LGBTQ” and “Sexual Minorities” and return to the terminology of “same-sex attracted”. This term is more accurate biblically** and deals with the matter in a descriptive way while not giving ground to the culture’s norms. The term also allows a separation from the old lifestyle and a connection to the new. One can now move from being “Gay” to being a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction, instead of from just “Gay” to being a “Gay-Christian” who is celibate.
Also, it may be helpful for the Revoice Conference to put out a statement saying that it has come to understand the problems and dangers behind the terms and language that it was using, stating that it will no longer be using these terms. Instead it will use such terms as “Christians struggling with same-sex attractions.” Revoice Conference will be wise to reaffirm its commitment to orthodox views on sex and sexuality as well.
Jim Shaw is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Redeemer PCA in Brunswick, Ga.
* It should be noted that the denomination that presents the program, and thus is a partner with Memorial Presbyterian Church in this presentation, the Evangelical Covenant Church, has already rejected the historic biblical understanding of church leadership, having stated that while they are “fully committed to the centrality of the Bible,” they are also fully committed to women’s ordination.
** Keeping “Gay” as a person’s self-identification, especially when it is the first word, puts the focus on a person’s sex and sexuality. God’s Word tells us that Christians are transformed into new creations and that we are to put off our old minds and selves and put on the mind of Christ.